Final HIPAA Wellness Program Regulations Issued Under Affordable Care Act

On June 3, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Department of the Treasury published in the Federal Register final guidance regarding nondiscriminatory wellness programs under employer-sponsored group health plans. This final guidance was issued in the form of much-anticipated joint final regulations on such wellness programs (the “Final Regulations”). It is important to note that the Final Regulations will apply to wellness programs offered under all group health plans [regardless of whether the plan is “grandfathered” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Affordable Care Act”)]. Moreover, these Final Regulations will be effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014.

For employers that currently maintain or desire to implement wellness programs to encourage healthy employee behavior or control plans costs, the time to start planning is now. Employers that currently maintain wellness programs should consider reviewing their programs offered in conjunction to ensure compliance with the Final Regulations, while employers looking to implement wellness programs may want to design such programs in compliance with the Final Regulations. In addition, an employer may wish to verify the wellness program’s continued compliance with other applicable laws, such as HIPAA privacy and security requirements, GINA and the ADA.

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